It’s apparent that the excellence of song craft wasn’t trapped in the ‘Pedro the Lion’ moniker; David Bazan comes out of the gate, let loosed from his band name, with as much introspection and cleverness as he left us with on his prior releases as Pedro and ‘Headphones’.
Bazan’s voice as an ironic commentator should never be overlooked; he has the ability to fully render the terrible things of the world with complete honesty and with little degrading humor—these songs are no different; you should hate the narrators, but you’re more moved and upset at the moment in which we live than you are disturbed by his off-the-cuff style. The opener track, ‘Selling Advertising (Making it, Faking it, Breaking It)’, is rife with both a slight attack on reviewers and self-attack on Christians, and being in a band. Later tracks like ‘Fewer Broken Pieces (Cake and Eat it, Too)’ are centered around self-referencing; why he went solo, in an ironic sense—putting the title of the album (and song) in light: “Fewer moving parts means fewer broken pieces’.
Is that true? Weren’t a few Pedro releases written and produced by Bazan alone, pretty much?
The tracks are just as catchy and well recorded as all of the Pedro tracks, but, really, since ‘Control’, I’ve been a little wary: when Achilles’ Heel came out, I was saddened by the loss of a cohesive story line. As a result, I didn’t get to know the album nearly as well as I did ‘Winners Never Quit’.
But here we have classic Bazan in a new start—the quality of the songs is high enough for you to forget the whole preconceived Pedro train of thought, which is what ‘Heel’ sort of lacked. That album had some pretty good tracks, but nothing terribly stand-out when considering the past (except, maybe, Bands with Managers). This ep? All of the tracks are stand out.
Cold Beer and Cigarettes (The Devil is Beating his Wife) is my favorite track on the disc—it’s both Headphones techy and Pedro catchy, all while retaining Bazan’s trademark narratives; the tale of a ‘white ghost’ who is on a bender, seeking sex, culminating in the most perfect verse of all time:
‘it’s faster to buy cigarettes and cold bear
if you don’t rattle the cashier
by asking her back to your room
she’s calling security’
The perfect bender mix-tape song. Slap that on with a few tracks from Black Out, and you’re set to drink yourself into hibernation.
The final track on the ep is staunchly political in standard Bazan fashion—blatant and mocking, that is to say. Backwoods Nation (Speeding the Collapse) discusses the state of our nation in a perfectly dark fashion. No one else on Earth could sing ‘camel fuckers’ and pull it off. Thank God Bazan lives on Earth.
I’m not sure that the acoustic version (of all the songs) that follow the rock versions are necessary, but they’re nice—I think it may have worked better if they were downloadable upon purchase of the album (remember how Heel had those tracks you could get with your ‘secret code’?), but it’s a good illustration of Bazan’s flexibility as a singer/songwriter—the vocals are mixed differently, and all the rocking parts are performed muted. Fun stuff.